The City of San Jose has been ordered to pay $3.6 million to a man who was hit then run over by a police officer’s patrol vehicle during a 2018 chase after a federal civil jury found the officer was negligent in inflicting serious injuries on the plaintiff.
The verdict issued last week in an Oakland federal court concludes a lawsuit filed years ago and resulted in Andy Martin being technically awarded $6 million. But the jury found Martin 40% responsible for the encounter in East San Jose, while finding Officer Alexandre Vieira-Ribeiro was 60% at fault, leading to a proportionally reduced portion of the award intended for Martin.
Plaintiff attorney Ben Nisenbaum, of the Burris law office, said the award was a recognition by jurors that the officer lied when he denied going in reverse — causing the patrol SUV to run over Martin and fracture his ankle — only to be refuted by body-camera video that was turned over during the litigation.
“You only resort to lying when the truth condemns you,” Nisenbaum said. “The jury’s verdict will provide for Mr. Martin to live as close to a normal life as possible now.”
Martin, 35, attracted police attention on May 2, 2018 after he and his cousin were reported to have threatened security guards with a knife and threatened to shoot them at a restaurant near Eastridge Mall. Officers spotted Martin and gave chase, with Vieira-Ribeiro trailing in his SUV with its lights and sirens activated. The collision occurred as the officer was trying to cut off his running path.
Body-camera footage shows the moment the officer gains on a running Martin, then the aftermath of the collision with Martin writhing on the ground and yelling in pain.
Vieira-Ribeiro could be heard telling Martin, “No one ran over you, dude” while another officer asked him, “Where’s that gun you threw, dude?” Neither Martin nor his cousin were found with a gun.
In a statement, City Attorney Nora Frimann — whose office represented the officer and the police department in the civil trial — focused on how the jury rejected Martin’s claims that Vieira-Ribeiro used excessive force and violated his civil rights, and said Martin’s injuries “occurred as the result of an unfortunate accidental collision.” She also emphasized that the officer was following at a slow speed, and that Martin was later convicted of crimes related to the chase.
Martin suffered multiple pelvis fractures, as well as fractures to his right ankle and fibula, according to attorney Patrick Buelna, who at the time of the lawsuit filing was in the Burris office but has since started his own practice,
Nisenbaum said the jury verdict is a clear message to police, even if they did not find that excessive force was used.
“The takeaway is that you’re accountable for your conduct, whether you’re intentionally wrong or not exercising reasonable care,” he said. “Police officers are given a lot of power and are expected to use it reasonably.”